Search Engine Optimization

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Search engine optimization (Ŏp’tě-mĭ-zā’shěn) n.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website easy to find on the internet. This is done by optimizing your site for the search engines that people use to surf the internet. A well optimized site can draw thousands of (free) referrals per day from major search engines. Properly optimizing your site will mean a gradual shift away from Pay-Per-Click campaigns to cost-free referrals.

In this article we outline several techniques you can use to undertake a simple search engine optimization of your site.

The goal: improve your position in search engine results

The goal of search engine optimization is to place your website as high as possible in search engine listings. Most surfers do not scroll down through search engine results, which is why you need to be as high up as possible.

For example, if you sell widgets, you do not want to come up number 68 in search engine listings. If you do, chances are very few visitors will make it to your site, unless you use paid or sponsored listings. Not only can paid listings be expensive, but a surprisingly low percentage of surfers actually click through sponsored results. By our estimates, made through studying Google Ad campaigns, the clickthrough rate on sponsored listings often hovers around or below 1.0% of all impressions made. That means that less than one percent of all visitors click on paid listings in Google.

Some search engines, for example Dogpile, Teoma, and InfoSpace, present a higher percentage of sponsored listings. Others such as AOL, Netscape, Ask Jeeves, and Hotbot feature sponsored results more prominently, and subsequently have a higher click-thru rate on paid listings than Google. Keep in mind that ownership and management of many search engines and portals changes on an almost daily basis. Perhaps the most important point is to be aware of where search engines get their results from.

Ultimately, you want to have your site listed in the top 10 or top 20 search engine results. This counts for all search engines, and especially for search engines that you would not be able sponsor your way into, even if you had the budget.

How SEO works

The goal of SEO is to increase the amount of traffic that is led to your site. One way to do this is by optimizing the content of your website page by page. Below we describe a few of the steps that you can take yourself to optimize your pages.

Parts of the optimizing process are fairly straight forward. The most important focus is the choice of keywords/search terms that you build into your site. The keywords you use are the road signs that lead traffic to your site. Therefore, your content should be purpose-built, by carefully choosing the words with which you create the content of your site. This means both your page titles, and the actual content of your pages.

Carefully chosen keywords, that reflect the search terms that surfers use, will also have the advantage of improving your Google ranking.

Here are a few steps that you can take yourself:

  1. Find out what your keyword density is. This number tells you the number of times specific keywords appear in each page. Between 5% and 15% is a good range to aim for. It is up to you to find a good balance between being informative and repetitive.
  2. Build links into your site. Both visitors and search engine spiders navigate by way of links. It is necessary to have numerous links, both from external sites (called backlinks) and links within your site (called crosslinks). When creating links, use words in place of logos or graphics. This is called anchor-text placement.
    Links will make your site easy to navigate for the bots and spiders that some search engines send out to index all the websites on the internet. Note: not all search engines send out bots. MSN, for example, use advertising, paid listings, and existing directories. You make your site easy to navigate with either a site map, extensive crosslinks, or both.
  3. Examine your page titles. Make sure they are succinct and relevant.
  4. Describe your service or product in as many ways as possible. For example, if you sell widgets, post articles and content which talk about the many wonderful applications of widgets. You could have a piece about manufacturing widgets, a piece about widgets as the perfect gift. You might want to include descriptions of both the numerous types of widgets available, and descriptions of all the numerous widgets, and widget-related products that you carry. A piece on the historical development of the widget would not hurt.
    The reason for including so much widget-related content is to try and cover all the possible word combinations that refer to widgets. You also want to be as informative as possible.
  5. Equally important is the steady addition of content. ‘Content, content, content’ is fast becoming a mantra on the internet.

Professional SEO services

SEO is a very wide subject. Optimization work is carried out both on sites under construction, and established sites. A professional SEO strategist will look at an existing site, and see what improvements can be made. This is done by looking at the competition, for example, their keywords, and also by looking for places to create backlinks. It involves a lot of research, content change, and subsequent search engine results. After each composition change, it is necessary to wait for the results to show up, before the effects of the changes can be measured. It is a slow process which can easily take months.

Numerous alternatives to conducting your own SEO exist. There is a vast and growing market for SEO. There are many companies competing for your business. There is a difference between getting a high listing position, and keeping it. A tricky aspect of SEO is that it is an ongoing process. Therefore choose carefully, when you choose an SEO company, as they are likely to be a long-term partner in your growth. SEO companies that guarantee you a first, second, or third place listing should make you suspicious. There is too much variability to make such promises.

What can a new site expect?

Ideally, a new site will start out with a fair number of traffic generating strategies before rising to prominence in search engine listings. So, a new site might buy traffic, register with search engines and portals, submit their URL to paid and free listings, and possibly buy backlinks. As a site grows in popularity, and the frequency of spider visits increases, the percentage of traffic driven from listings will increase. Thereafter economic resources can be moved away from paid advertisements. It can be very satisfying to watch these percentages change.

How can Opentracker help?

Opentracker can:

  1. Give you accurate statistics and visitor behavior, customizable to any given time frame you are interested in.
  2. Tell you which words to build into your site through extensive search term tracking. For example, we provide you with chronological ranked listings of all the terms used to find your site. We also provide you with the clickstreams of the users who surfed in with those terms.
  3. Measure the percentages for you, and tell you which of your traffic is from standard results and what percentage is from sponsored listings. This will allow you to achieve an overall understanding of what your paid listings are bringing you.
  4. Tell you how effective your campaigns, paid listings or paid inclusion are.
  5. Show you which entry pages are the most popular on your site. You can see how many people come in to specific pages. This, in turn will tell you how well each page has been optimized, which changes to pursue, and which ones to drop.

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